Seven Illinois Casinos Awarded Sports Betting Licenses

  • Casinos still need to receive separate approval before launching their online sportsbooks
  • The initial four-year licenses cost up to $10m each and can be renewed for $1m
  • The seven licenses are estimated to net the state at least $40m in initial license fees
  • Illinois residents will be able to sign up for online accounts remotely once casinos get approval
"Welcome to Illinois" highway sign
In its first meeting in four months, the Illinois Gaming Board awarded master sports betting licenses to seven casinos, allowing them to launch online sportsbooks once they receive individual approval. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Handing out licenses

The Illinois Gaming Board awarded master sports betting licenses to seven casinos on June 11. 

each casino must obtain separate approval from the gaming board

Despite obtaining these licenses, locals won’t be able to place any bets just yet. Retail sportsbooks will not be able to open for the foreseeable future as the state’s casinos remain closed amid the coronavirus pandemic. And before an online sportsbook can launch, each casino must obtain separate approval from the Gaming Board.

The Board granted licenses to Rivers Casino (Des Plaines), Argosy Casino (Alton), Grand Victoria (Elgin), Hollywood Casino (Aurora), Hollywood Casino (Joliet), Par-A-Dice (East Peoria) and the Casino Queen (East St. Louis). 

Retail sports betting did already launch in the state, albeit briefly before the shutdown. Argosy Casino and Rivers Casino accepted sports bets through temporary operating permits just before the pandemic halted casino activity.

The licenses are valid for four years; the renewal fee is $1m.

18-month penalty period

With the awarding of these licenses, the 18-month blackout period during which online-only sports betting operators like DraftKings and FanDuel have to stay out of the Illinois market begins. 

This rule was part of the gambling expansion bill signed in the summer of 2019, giving retail casinos a head start over online operators. Once the 18-month period comes to an end, the internet-based operators will also be subject to a hefty $20m initial license fee. 

The three horse racing tracks in the state also applied for sports betting licenses, but these are still pending approval. Major sports venues such as the United Center and Wrigley Field are also entitled to apply for a sportsbook license; none have done so to date.

Needed cash injection

The advantage of handing out the seven licenses is the immediate cash injection it provides the state, helping make up for some of the lost tax revenue from the casino closures.

The license fees are one-off charges that vary depending on the given casino’s gross revenue in 2019; they are capped at $10m. The Chicago-Sun Times estimates that the seven licenses will yield at least $40m in fees for the state. 

Unfortunately, this still does not make a significant dent in what the state has lost. Between March and June 2019, Illinois casinos contributed over $114m in taxes and video gambling terminals provided an additional $147m in revenue. Facing a $2.7bn budget deficit, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a revised operating budget on June 10 that relies heavily on borrowing.

Register from home

Gamblers in Illinois can sign up for online sports betting accounts remotely following a coronavirus disaster proclamation provision made last week by Governor Pritzker.

Requests will be granted once received if the licensees meet all necessary requirements.”

Previously, people would have had to visit a casino in person to complete their initial registration for an account, something that, of course, could not happen while casinos are closed.

Online registration will help the state’s sports betting industry ramp up quickly as sports leagues get back underway, but as of Thursday afternoon, no licensing requests had been submitted to the state regulator.

“Every licensee is treated independently and there is no set timetable to commence wagering,” Illinois Gaming Board director Joe Miller told the Sun-Times. “Requests will be granted once received if the licensees meet all necessary requirements.”